Saturday, July 21, 2012

Batman Begins

This weekend marks the opening to the final installment of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Saga, a trilogy of highly-praised Batman films. As a lead-in to it, I have decided to watch the first film from 2005, Batman Begins, again after having last seen it years ago. Since I first saw it when I was younger, I couldn't really get a full grasp of the plot, but now that I am a bit older I was able to follow it this time, and I can say that this is a good start to the trilogy.

Being the first movie in a trilogy, much of the plot is essentially Batman's origin story, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The events leading up to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) becoming the caped crusader we all know  are told intriguingly as we see his evolution from a boy with a fear of bats to someone who utilizes that fear in order to stop crime. Christian Bale does a good job showcasing that the death of Bruce's parents at a young age has really affected the character, though his Batman voice could use some work. Sometimes Bruce and Batman share a voice, which is perfectly fine, while at other times Bale uses the memetic voice that is prevalent in the sequel, The Dark Knight, which sounds like he's trying a little too hard to be menacing (in my opinion, of course).

The layout of Gotham City in this movie is unique compared to other Batman stories (including its own sequel no less), with such features as a monorail linking various parts of the city, Wayne Tower acting as the central hub. This design helps make the plan of antagonists Scarecrow (Cilliam Murphy) and Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson) more inventive as they attempt to spread fear throughout the city.

On that note, I liked the way that these Batman villains were portrayed. Scarecrow was introduced in a way that seemed more realistic, which was the goal after all, and his identity as Dr. Johnathan Crane is not easily telegraphed, save for those already familiar with Batman lore. While I'm not as familiar with Ra's al Ghul as I am with other Batman villains, I liked the way his character was written here, along with the idea that his ideals of erasing evil further motivated Bruce Wayne not to kill while stopping crime.

Another thing I enjoyed about Batman Begins was the dark knight's gadgetry, particularly how he acquires it. It's interesting to see the in-universe design process that went into his iconic batsuit, not to mention how he got Morgan Freeman's character, Lucius Fox, to hand some of the technology to him, and what seems like an insane amount of time that goes into constructing a batarang. I also thought this movie's design for the Batmobile was simply amazing, like there's a sense of power you get whenever the vehicle is used. Seeing it in action is even more amazing, including one scene that shows off everything the hero's new transport can really do.

However, my only complaint about this movie is the runtime. There's a whole lot of plot to be found here, resulting in a story that seems to drag on a little longer than needed, to where, during the final act, I was mostly waiting for it to end. That's not to say the story is bad, it just went on a little long for my taste.

As I said before, Batman Begins is a great way to start off the current trilogy. It has some great action in it, actors deliver some solid performances, and the realistic approach to the Batman mythos is handled surprisingly well. If you have not yet seen any of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, this one is a great place to start; it even leads into the sequel, The Dark Knight.

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